Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication includes the use of body posture (movement and position), tone and volume of voice, eye contact or avoidance and facial expression; we usually express our feelings about others through these nonverbal communications (Fehr, 2003). The way group members experience the nonverbal communications of one another is an important aspect of the group process that may be more powerful than the verbal (Perls, Hefferline, & Goodman, 1951; Fehr, 2003). The therapist can choose to direct a particular nonverbal structured exercise that strengthens the connections group members feel with one another. This intervention must be used judiciously-if it is used too frequently, it loses its potency and can become trite. However, when used on rare infrequent occasions, it can be a powerful tool that helps a depressed or shamed member feel safer in group and more joined with the other members.


Yalom (1985) suggests that, in general, structured exercises are of more value in brief specialized groups than in long-term outpatient groups. However, this particular intervention has been used in the "working phase" of insight-oriented groups that focus on long-term relationship building and learning from the responses of and interactions with others. I have found it most useful when working with a client who has doubts about his or her membership in group, particularly when that doubt has grown out of a sense of shame or concern about rejection following "misbehavior" (in or outside of group) or revelation of what the client perceives as shameful historical material.

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